Naina Kanodia thinks Surendran Nairs Tathaagata tathagata… epitomises the Indian spirit
India has inspired innumerable artwork but I feel that a recent canvas by Surendran Nair captures the true spirit of the country. Exhibited as part of his solo exhibition at Sakshi gallery in Mumbai recently,the oil-on-canvas titled Tathaagata tathagata thatha gaatha – The Wounded Majesty,or,The Anatomy of Fate (Cuckoonebulopolis) caught my immediate attention. While the backdrop in dark shades adds beauty to the work,each element in the foreground is a quintessential part of our culture. For instance,Nair has opted to dress the man in a dhoti,which is a traditional Indian attire,and still worn by some men in villages. The umbrella that he holds is part of every household and protects us from the rain and the sun,and each commodity that hangs from itfrom the chappals to the bell and the dholak reminds us of our home. The artist has resorted to minute detailing and each aspect on the canvas contributes towards making it a work that denotes India.
Despite its rootedness,Nair has succeeded in giving it a universal appeal. So,even while Mansarovar is one of the most sacred places of worship for Hindus,Nair has managed to give the artwork a global reverence by including a mosque,a lotus temple and a gurudwara on the mountain top. He has successfully portrayed Mansarovar as a symbol of secularism. The canvas should not be linked to political or societal debates. For me,it holds relevance in different periods and the concerns it raises are perennial.